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Zerheilt: Healed to Pieces

Frédéric Brenner's photos at the Jewish Museum create an intriguing chorus of Jewish life

From the photographic essay ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES by Frédéric Brenner; Jewish Museum Berlin

None of the subjects in the French-born Frédéric Brenner’s photographic essay are named or identified, all we know is that they are Jews living or visiting Berlin between 2016 and 2019.

There is a full spectrum of life on show here, with the portraits often taken in hotels or in private spaces. Sometimes staged and dramatic, at times spontaneous and oddly impassive: the woman in the forest facing down towards the ground, the man in a deserted theatre with his hands covering his face.

In one heavily contrived image, an old man lies naked on brown earth, a Theodor W. Adorno quote about exile tattooed on his back. As with all the images you find yourself looking for what isn’t there, absent narratives, searching for stories behind the fragmented scenes whilst pondering the enormity of that decision to overcome the burden of history and make Berlin your home.

What works less well is a chorus of murmured quotes and extracts played through ceiling speakers that the artist compiled during his time in Berlin. They come off as a failed attempt to bring extra depth and feel disconnected and forced. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing and at times moving exhibition that’s worth seeing alongside their free permanent exhibition on Jewish life in Germany.

Through Apr 24 Jewish Museum Berlin, Kreuzberg